Scoring that customer satisfaction goal

Six experts tell Michael Barnett how consumer feedback is measured, what methods are used and how it influences their businesses.

The Panel (l-r below):

Alex Hardy, consumer market insight director, Unilever UK and Ireland
Samuel Rodenhausen, market research manager, Swiss International Air Lines
Tina Mermiri, senior research analyst, Ticketmaster International (Market Research Society company partner)
Sue Helmont, head of insight, Aviva
Rupal Mathur, insight manager, Sainsbury’s (Market Research Society company partner)
Jenny Lindsay, head of insight, Cancer Research (Market Research Society company partner)

peer panel

Marketing Week (MW): How do you seek direct feedback from your customers and why do you choose these methods in particular?

Alex Hardy (AH): Unilever has a regular programme of ‘consumer connections’, where people go shopping with the consumer, or go to their home and talk to them, go through their cupboards, their bathrooms, and anything that might be relevant to the topic we are looking at. It helps to ground us in the reality of what consumers are facing.

We set up a community panel, where we have several thousand consumers online that we connect with directly. Traditionally our connections with consumers have been face-to-face, but while it is useful doing it that way, it is also really valuable doing it virtually. We speak to them regularly about topical issues, getting a consumer viewpoint on something that ordinarily we might not commit research funds to. We also have a broad programme of understanding social media, in terms of listening to it, seeing how effective it is, and how we can get better at it.

Samuel Rodenhausen (SR): We have a customer satisfaction survey to measure satisfaction with the Swiss International flight experience. It is the main database that we use to identify service levels and the weaknesses and strengths we have.

It is the industry standard that most airlines do customer satisfaction measurement and most of them do it in the pencil and paper, because with most of our customers we don’t have any contact details. But you don’t have the full feedback if you do pencil and paper surveys while on board because there could be a problem after the flight [rather than before or during it].

Our QuestBack feedback system is at the mid-way point [of the journey], a compromise. For premium customers, where we have contact details, we can contact them after the flight, and with our economy passengers we invite them to take the survey after the flight.

Tina Mermiri (TM): We use an ongoing survey at Ticketmaster which we report on monthly and can add questions about specific features on the site. We are looking at the search functionality, the navigation, and that kind of thing.

We are now starting to think about how we are going to analyse it in more depth, to understand the people who are more likely to be satisfied and dissatisfied, and what kind of people they are. We have started cross-referencing to understand whether it is the first-time users who are more confused by the navigation, for example. Some of these are things you might expect, but we want to quantify this.

I want an increase in the overlaying of our tracking research data with performance data. That’s where the nuggets of insight should come through

MW: Is direct consumer feedback given any more or less credence in the business than other forms of consumer data?

Sue Helmont (SH): Aviva’s ambition is to be the most recommended brand in the insurance sector, so the measures that link behind that ambition are the ones that get particular focus at a senior executive level. We use our transactional net promoter score measure [TNPS], where customers are asked to recommend a company’s processes, rather than its overall brand, because we can use it around the globe.

Equally we use those measures that drive the right outcomes. Because TNPS is in the here and now and gives real customer feedback in their own words, we have the opportunity to influence how the customer feels about the brand at that point. That has a lot of significance because we are in a low-touchpoint sector, unlike retailing, for example. Things like brand consideration as an indicator of purchase intention is also a key measure.

Rupal Mathur (RM): At Sainsbury’s we treat all of our data sources as important as they all complement each other and allow us to build up an accurate picture of the customer. We use a combination of qualitative research, such as accompanied shops and eye tracking and quantitative data, from simple studies to projects targeting relevant customers using Nectar loyalty data when needed.

It’s nice to be in a company that recognises the value of customer insight, to make sure we are meeting their needs. This informs every area of our business including store development, marketing communications, product development and the trading teams.

AH: Third-party research is generally more robust than looking at one consumer connection. If you speak to several hundred people, you are going to get a much better sense of what the population thinks than by speaking to one person. But getting consumers direct feedback before or after you have had a big quantitative debrief helps to bring it to life.

Based on income stats, we know that most of our marketing team at Unilever and probably everywhere else in FMCG, are in the top 10 per cent of earners in the UK, so speaking to our consumers gets people out of a bubble they might exist in. My background teaches me to trust the data, but where we can add some colour, or another layer, it helps to bring it to life. You can have the best piece of research in the world, but if it is not engaging the people who need to understand it, it can get left on the shelf.

MW: Do different data sets sit in different areas of the company, and if so, how do you derive business insight from analysing them together?

TM: At the moment it all sits in different places, but we work in the same department as the people who analyse digital trends, and the people who are in charge of our data warehouse, so we look at the data together. For example, looking at music festival data for different age groups, we’ll find attendees are slightly different from the people who buy our tickets – you can have parents and grandparents buying tickets for children or grandchildren.

The children wouldn’t necessarily appear in our data warehouse because they haven’t bought the tickets, but they are in some way customers of ours, because they are going to the events, so we need to understand them. We are trying to look at the two sources and marry them up.

SH: In my new remit as Aviva’s head of insight, I want to strengthen this area, to look at not only data on what our customers are saying about us from a tracking perspective, but also what they are doing in reality.

We moved to Chime Insight and Engagement as our lead strategic agency at the beginning of this year and it now does the lion’s share of our continuous tracking and qualitative research. That might be anything from a speedy turnaround for things like end lines for our TV adverts, to anything in terms of creative or more recent activity on a strategic level linking pensions with customer journey mapping.

I want an increase in the overlaying of our tracking research data with performance data. That is where the improved nuggets of insight should come through. We already do a lot of overlaying of market data with what’s happening with our competitors.

AH: Part of the role of Unilever’s consumer market insight team is to connect the dots and bring disparate pieces of information together. There are systems that will help make that easier, but there is inherent skill in getting a quote from a consumer, a piece of market information and a piece of work from a quantitative study, making sense of that and creating insights from it. Systems can help you do that quicker, but there is not a magic bullet.

Most of our marketing team at Unilever are in the top 10 per cent of earners in the UK, so speaking to consumers gets people out of a bubble they might exist in

MW: Do you combine survey and market data with your customer databases and if so, what does this allow the company to do in its marketing and communications?

RM: Sainsbury’s is a founding member of the Nectar programme, the largest loyalty scheme in the UK, which gives us access to a rich data source. We use the data in a number of ways.

Sainsbury’s can reward customers directly at the till with points and offers targeted to their shopping behaviour, through our coupon-at-till technology. We use Nectar data to help when opening new stores, by identifying potential locations and to help determine what customers in that region will be buying.

We also moved to online research surveys as it is cost effective and provides a fast turnaround if we contact people through our Nectar card customer panel. We are working on these online surveys being easier to answer by making them all device friendly for tablet computers and mobile phones, so it is easier for our customers to feedback.

Jenny Lindsay (JL): If people take part in the Race for Life sponsored run, Cancer Research will seek feedback from them via email following the event and we will supplement that with additional research. We’ll also be looking to add to that through volunteers on the ground, asking three specific questions so we can get an insight into how people are feeling at that moment. We have a dedicated strategic marketing planning team, which analyses all sorts of data but it happens across all the different teams.

SH: Aviva’s insight team is known for its segmentation activities – we won an award in 2009 for our segmentation modelling. That is a key example of where we have combined qualitative and behavioural data back into our customer relationship management data. We now have a consistent segmentation model across life, health and general insurance in the UK. We have done further behavioural research this year and are now looking at that from a best practice point of view in our Irish market, where we are about to adopt some of those principles.

MW: Can you describe any significant business changes or decisions that have been made on the basis of customer insights?

JL: We relaunched the Cancer Research brand this month with a new logo and tone of voice. One of the main reasons was the recognition that the brand plays a major role in whether people give money to us or fundraise for us. We depend on the generosity of supporters to fund our life-saving research but that isn’t always understood by consumers, because the perception is that we are government-funded, which isn’t true.

Consumers would tell us they couldn’t see the impact of the money they give to us or the difference it actually makes to the people around them. There is quite a big perception that we are a corporate and slightly cold organisation. Obviously we are a well-performing brand respected by the public, but if we could identify a weakness it is that we perform slightly less well on brand attributes such as ‘caring’ and ‘closeness’, though we would score very strongly on ‘hope’ and ‘trust’.

SR: I was recently asked how I would advise other companies that want to introduce a customer satisfaction survey. The main thing is that you have commitment from the top management, then the value of customer satisfaction data is common sense in your company. The outcome is accepted and if there are changes in the results, the necessary adaptations are made. This is the most important thing and it is something we now have at Swiss.

AH: We have launched Dove for Men in the skincare category in recent weeks. There was a huge amount of consumer information that helped create that, right across the product range, the packaging and the communications. That’s just the most recent example, but there is a whole wealth of communications on other brands that came out of it. There are projects being thought about five years hence or more, through to stuff that is working in another market that could be launched here in a matter of months.

Currently we are refining and developing our UK and Ireland strategy for the next few years. Underpinning that is a lot of information on how consumers are feeling, how they make up the population and what they expect to happen in the next few years, in terms of coming out of recession and the legacy that will remain from the changes they have made to their lives. The consumer will play a central role in what we do as a result of that.

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